Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:3, states, “I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” God, in revealing His plan and purpose for man’s life, was not trying to confuse man. He wanted (and still wants today) man to hear, understand and obey. Therefore, the gospel was couched in terms that were simple and clear. Satan will always try to confuse us, so in various ways he tries to complicate the massage. That is why Paul wrote, “that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” but “whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 2:11; 4:4). Where God wants us to hear and learn, and come to Him (Jn. 6:45), Satan tries to confuse and bewilder all those who would listen to God.
Free from sin
God has clearly revealed how men are to be made free from sin. To this end, God gave His only begotten Son and approved Him with these words; “…This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5)! God spoke under the Old Covenant through the prophets, but now speaks His will for our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). Surely no one would contend that He is unable to speak clearly what He wants us to understand, or that Christ is unable to convey the Father’s message. God made man (Gen. 1:26-27), surely, He knows our intelligence and ability to comprehend. Why, then, are there those who affirm that we cannot be sure we know the will of God?
Instructions to disciples
Before Jesus left this earth, He gave instructed His disciples to evangelize the world. At the same time, He gave the means by which men would be saved from sin, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). That bit of information is so simple and plain that a person must have a lot of help to misunderstand it. If this passage is not clear to you, ask a ten-year-old school child to explain what it means. Jesus was not trying to confuse the apostles, nor you and me. He gave simple terms for salvation which they understood and preached, and which we can understand and obey.
When the apostles went forth in compliance with the instructions of Jesus, they preached the gospel in simple words. The people who heard them had no difficulty in understanding what to believe and what to do. Many found it hard to accept, but none found it hard to understand. When Peter preached the first gospel sermon (Acts 2:14-36), people believed and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” The Lord’s reply, through Peter, was simple, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38). There was no question about their ability to understand because, “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day…” (Acts 2:41). They understood what to do and did it – 3000 of them. What could be simpler or plainer?
Why were 3000 baptized that day? The Bible says, they “received his word.” The converse could be stated, as those who did not receive his word were not baptized. That is still true today. Those who gladly receive the word of the Lord will do what the word says3/4 no excuses, no arguments.
In Jn. 8:24, Jesus said, “you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” The reason for His many miracles is clearly revealed: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Later, Paul would write of the gospel, “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). He further explained in Rom. 5:1, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Without faith we cannot be pleasing to God (Heb. 11:6), but it must be a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Faith without works is no faith at all (Jas. 2:20).
Faith must lead us to turn from our former way of living. Jesus said, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). Jesus did not come to earth and die on the cross that we might continue to live according to our own will. 2 Cor 5:15 states it this way, “He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Jesus came to save people from their sins, not to save people in their sins. If we would be saved, we must be willing to turn from our sins to live as He directs us. If we are determined to live for ourselves, to live in sin, we cannot be saved. The requirement is simple: we must repent
Many heard and believed
On the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, 3000 people believed (v. 37), repented (v. 38) and were baptized (v. 41). A pattern of conversion was set that was repeated over and over. Philip went to the city of Samaria and “preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5). “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike” (Acts 8:12).
Notice, when they believed, they were baptized. Just like the people on Pentecost. Just as Jesus had said in Mark 16. Philip was directed by an angel of the Lord to go to the road that led to Gaza where he met an Ethiopian and “preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:26-35). “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized’” (v. 36)? Told he must believe, he stated, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” (v. 37), and “they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him” (v. 38). Wasn’t that simple? Why complicate it? Just do what Jesus said. That is what the Samaritans did, that is what the eunuch did. Why confuse the matter?
When the gospel began to be preached to the Gentile world, we see the exact same pattern emerge. The apostle Paul preached in Philippi, was arrested and thrown into prison. As he and Silas sang praises to God, an earthquake freed all the prisoners. The jailer brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). He was told, “’Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (Acts 16:31-33).
Just as with the other examples, this man trusted Jesus, repented of his sins, and was immediately baptized. When Paul preached in Corinth, “…many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized” (Acts 18:8). God’s message was simple enough that people who heard it for the first time could respond to it. That means, they understood it. However, they might not have known what was expected of them after that. However, they knew what God said for them to do. Why shouldn’t it be that simple today?